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Description

1879 Flowing Hair Stella, Judd-1635, AU Details

1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3--Repaired, Harshly Cleaned--NGC Details. AU. Ask any advanced numismatist what obverse design types exist for the 1879 stellas, and he or she will promptly and correctly answer "Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair." The latter, rarer design is by George T. Morgan, the former is by William Barber. But ask that same numismatist what obverse design types exist for the 1879 Flowing Hair stellas, and you will likely be answered by puzzled silence. The correct answer is: "Large Head or Small Head."
This may appear to be a trick question--and if stellas are considered to be only the gold pieces, it is. But stellas are properly the pattern design type, although any proper description of a nongold stella would make mention of it. Nonetheless, there does exist a single unique stella struck in copper, Judd-1636a, which has the Small Head obverse design subtype. It is listed as Judd-1636a, Pollock-1837, and traces its provenance to the Harlan P. Smith sale of 1906, lot 1447 (it has been gilded since).
The two types are easily distinguished: The Small Head has the bust tip pointing to the top of the 1 in the date, while the Large Head (normal 1879 Flowing Hair variety) has the tip pointing to star 1. The headband on Liberty's head touches (nearly) a 7 in the peripheral legends of the Small Head, while the headband touches a star on the Large Head. Both varieties are shown side-by-side on USPatterns.com, with a notation that they both hail from the 1974 Rio Rancho Estate sale (Superior, 10/1974).
Nothing is known about whence the Small Head variant derives, and as the Judd reference says, "the variation is not widely differentiated in the literature and is often grouped with the [Large Head] varieties listed above." One can only imagine what price a Small Head gold 1879 Flowing Hair stella would fetch, in the unlikely event that one were ever to surface. Amazingly, even in the Rio Rancho sale cited above, the two design subtypes were not distinguished, and the unique copper Judd-1636a sold for $5,000--the same as its presale estimate.
This is one of the more affordable stellas on the market. The surfaces are slightly wavy from repair, especially in the center of the obverse. Both sides are bright orange-gold and obviously hairlined. The surfaces otherwise show minimal contact marks.

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Auction Dates
September, 2010
22nd-26th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 8
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